What are some of your favorite lesson ideas you use in AP English? I just received this post for next year and am going to my training in a couple months, but I want to start planning my year. If you have a website you frequent or a creative assignment or a lecture topic you love, tell me about it!
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Are you going to be teaching AP English Language or AP English Literature because there is quite a difference between the two classes?
I currently teach AP English Language, and I have come to love teaching rhetoric, argument, and nonfiction. It's so much fun to see my male students develop an interest in reading because of the class's exposure to quality nonfiction. For this class, I have developed a synthesis argument essay in which students work in groups of four on the same topic--two students take the pro position and two take the con position. Each member in the group contributes at least two sources, and the other members in the group must smoothly incorporate those sources into their own writing. This helps them prepare for writing the synthesis essay for the exam in which they have to use sources that have been provided to them. After my students complete their essays, I allow them to debate their issue with the opposing side (I use the National Forensic League's Public Forum debate format, but you can use any debate format for this). Students cannot use any fallacies and must use their sources to support their position. My students love this part and many have discussed how the oral debate challenges them to watch their tone, consider their logic, and evaluate sources more thoroughly.
If you're teaching AP English Lit., the above assignment doesn't help much, but one project that my AP Lit. students in previous years have loved is what I call an explication project. Younger students come by my room and ask if they are going to "get to do" this assignment "next year."
If you visit www.awaytoteach.net and click on "Cat in the Rain" by Jenny Lee, you will see an example of the final presentation (make sure that you have your volume up because the sound is an important element). Basically, I require students to explicate a short story (from a list I give them) and then use PPt animation to illuminate the text. The presentations and close reading assignments for this assignment challenge students to think about tone, imagery, characterization, style, etc. AP level students enjoy this because of the challenge and because of the competition that it inspires to see who can create the most visually stunning presentation:)!
I love the VOICE LESSONS books. They really help students understand the voice of a speaker and tone of a piece. Those are two of the hardest literature terms to teach students. I never taught AP, but taught the pre-AP classes which led up to the big whammy.
I also always made huge use of the Socratic Seminar. On every piece of literature, we assigned specific jobs for close reading so that the group would get deeper into the piece and not just regurgitate the obvious. It really did help them, and even the students with the least ability to recognize symbolism, theme, satire, etc. were picking up on these things. It's a great preparation for the open questions on the AP exam.
You will be able to find so much online about seminars, and you will "fix" it to best suit your needs.
Because bright students enjoy being empowered so much, activities that they can direct are always worthwhile; in addition, they enjoy an outlet for their creativity. One such activity that has been successful is the publication of a literary magazine. The students can put their poetry, short stories, essays, drawings, etc. together and publish a small magazine which makes a wonderful keepsake. Grandparents adore it.
I have taught both the AP Literature and the AP Language courses, and one activity that works well for both is writing using mentor texts to help students develop their voice. Recently, my AP Language class studied Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and I asked the students to choose one passage that resonated with them as a result of the rhetorical structure of the passage. The students then used the structures that they chose as templates for their own writing.
I think the major strategy that I use for Literature is to encourage wide reading and also to set students a project of independently comparing one of the set books we work on together in class with a book of their own choice (drawn from a large list) with similar themes etc. I always try to get my students to do the work, especially at this level, and giving them their own novel to work on by themselves really helps with making them independent critics.
To help them prepare for the multiple part of the AP exam I have students create their own multiple choice questions. We spend some time in advance of this reveiwing old exams and looking for the common question stems, and then create from there. They realize that writing a good test is hard, and seem to enjoy the challenge of writing the "right" answer and the "not quite right" answer. Some good debates have ensued!
I work Socratic seminars into our study of every novel in AP Lit. One, it ensures accountability, because students have to show me their annotated books and discuss their interpretations. They lead the discussions, and I only step in to redirect conversation or ask a question if it lags. Two, it encourages dialogue on confusing or controversial issues. Gathering the diverse approaches of each student allows them a larger pool of resources for the actual test. Three, they get a chance to talk. High school students love to talk, and this directs that impulse in a constructive direction. We've really explored new meanings in novels through these discussions.
When I taught AP Language, I asked students to watch for logical fallacies used by political figures, and create a powerpoint dissecting the argument (or lack thereof). I also coordinated with our AP Government teacher, who has his students stage mock elections every year, complete with political parties and debates. My students were required to analyze the arguments set forth in the debates, and report to each party on how they performed rhetorically.
I would suggest that you check out the National Writing Projects website. This is comprised of a phenomenal group of teachers who teach other teachers. Research based information is provided, and you'll probably find some other helpful ideas and suggestions. Also find out where your states closest affiliated writing project is and get invovled with that as soons as possible.
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